Lower Hutt's Tony Cook shows what can be done with a crumbling 19th century Petone church.

Revisiting protection of our heritage buildings

“Don’t it always seem to go/That you don’t know what you got ’til it’s gone…”

Human history in the area we now call Lower Hutt began around 600 years ago as the first Māori settled in the region.

By the time Pākehā started arriving in numbers in 1840, there were a number of Te Ātiawa settlements, mainly along the Petone foreshore and Te Awa Kairangi/Hutt River.

Hutt City Council is in the early stages of reviewing Lower Hutt’s district plan. An important part of this work is looking at how we as a city identify and protect cultural sites and heritage buildings. Council’s first task focuses on our surviving heritage buildings.

Deputy Mayor Tui Lewis says the city’s heritage areas and buildings are important to people’s sense of identity and belonging.

“They inspire a sense of continuity, permanence and stability and contribute to people’s sense of wellbeing and satisfaction with their surroundings,” she says.

“Where people value the character of an area they tend to treat it with respect and help keep it pleasant, welcoming and safe.”

Council is required by Central Government and Greater Wellington Regional Council policies to identify and protect historic heritage. The Resource Management Act requires councils to protect historic heritage as a “matter of national importance”.

Councils across the country do this by listing heritage buildings in their district plans, which have policies and rules that define how they will be protected.

Not all of our historic properties have been listed. In some cases, buildings perceived by some to be historic heritage, have been demolished because they were not listed in the district plan.

But finding a balance is not easy. Demand for land and housing is putting pressure on heritage buildings and owning a listed building brings with it responsibilities. Council has put aside $1.5 million in its draft 10 Year Plan to support owners to maintain their heritage properties.

Council has employed heritage specialists to research historic buildings, using photographs, documents and maps, to draw up a list of buildings that are likely to have heritage values. Owners of these buildings will be contacted in the next week or so.

Next month, the specialists will be on the street looking at buildings to see if they match their initial research. In some instances, they may want to talk to property owners to get their feedback and gather additional information.

Council staff will consider this feedback before creating a list of buildings for protection. Council will then review the effectiveness of the current district plan’s protections of historic heritage. More information can be found here .

Council intends to notify a proposed district plan, including historic heritage protections, in 2022. Affected property owners will be able to submit on the proposed district plan at this point.

Council will hold public engagement on the district plan review next month. Residents will have the opportunity to ask questions about the review at 11 open days across the city, and provide their ideas on how Lower Hutt evolves in the decades ahead.

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